Listening and Speaking

There are many different language skills we can develop to ensure we can communicate well with others. Whether written or spoken, we can use our language to express ourselves and convey our thoughts to those around us. 

Listening and Speaking Listening and Speaking

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Table of contents

    This article focuses on listening and speaking skills - other vital English language skills include reading and writing skills.

    Listening and Speaking Skills

    Listening and speaking skills allow us to communicate effectively with others. Communication involves more than the ability to simply talk and hear other people. It is essential to have good listening and speaking skills, as this will allow you to adapt your language to suit certain situations and improve your ability to successfully share your thoughts while also considering the views of others.

    Listening and speaking skills also prepare you for the 'outside' world. For example, in an interview, you should show the interviewer that you are attentive and can confidently express yourself. Having good listening and speaking skills will definitely help with this!

    Listening and Speaking Image of an interview StudySmarterFig. 1 - Good listening and speaking skills can help in professional settings, such as interviews.

    Listening and Speaking Topics

    In this listening and speaking study set, there are five main topics:

    1. Presentation skills

    2. Group discussion

    3. Address counterclaims

    4. Active listening skills

    5. Presentation technology

    Let's look at an overview of each:

    Presentation Skills

    Presentations are an excellent way for you to show that you have an understanding of a topic. If you have good presentation skills, you can confidently share your knowledge with others. Presentations may seem daunting at first, but there are a couple of things you can do to make sure your presentation runs smoothly:

    Try to speak clearly so the audience can understand you.

    Although you may want to rush through a presentation to get it over with, it is important the audience can follow along with what you are saying. Make sure you aren't speaking too fast; it is okay to take your time, as this will keep you calm and collected. Also, try to make sure you are speaking at a decent volume, as you want the audience to be able to hear you well.

    Use confident body language (such as eye contact and good posture)

    Use eye contact to establish a connection with your audience. In turn, this will keep the audience interested and make them more likely to pay attention. A good posture will also help you to appear confident and relaxed.

    Here are a couple of speaking techniques used when giving speeches:

    • Change your tone of voice and/or pitch to express a certain emotion (e.g. if you want to show enthusiasm, raise the pitch of your voice).
    • Leave pauses or gaps to help your audience reflect on what you said. This also gives you time to gather your thoughts. Think of a pause as a type of verbal punctuation!

    Group Discussion

    Being able to discuss a topic in groups effectively depends on a good balance between spoken conversation and listening to others. For example, if one person talks too much, they may not allow others to voice their opinions. Or they may not always pay attention to what others are saying if they talk over them and don't stop to listen!

    One crucial thing to bare in mind is turn-taking. This refers to when one person in a conversation speaks at a time. Turn-taking ensures that there are no interruptions and allows everyone to voice their opinions one at a time. It also gives others the opportunity to stop and listen carefully to the person speaking, allowing them to properly pay attention to what they are saying.

    It may help to sit around a table like this when having a discussion:

    Listening and Speaking Image of a group discussion StudySmarterFig. 2 - Group discussions often address differing points of view.

    This way, you will be able to see everyone's reactions clearly (both verbal and non-verbal) and maintain eye contact to show that you are paying attention.

    You should also be aware that group discussions often address differing points of view. It is highly unlikely that everyone will share the same views! This leads us to our next topic...

    Address Counterclaims

    Although having a clear point of view is important, it is also equally essential to be able to address opposing arguments. This shows that you can justify your own opinion while also considering and respecting the views of others. You don't always have to agree with others, but you should be aware that your opinion is not the only one that matters! Try not to hold too much judgment on others, as this may make your argument seem too biased.

    Active Listening Skills

    When listening to a conversation, it is important that you are attentive and focused on what the speaker is saying. Active listening is a way of listening that improves mutual understanding between people in a conversation. If you listen well, you will be able to interpret the speakers' intentions more clearly and have a better idea of how to respond to them.

    You can show that you are paying attention by using non-verbal cues such as eye contact, nodding, and leaning forward.

    Presentation Technology

    You should be aware of different types of presentation technology as they can help you to create an eye-catching and interesting presentation. Visual aids can be used alongside spoken words to help get your message across. This includes presentation software such as:

    • Powerpoint

    • Google slides

    • Prezi

    • Keynote

    Don't rely too much on the presentation slides - for example, try not to read directly off the slides. This will make you seem less confident about your topic!

    Listening and Speaking Strategies

    "What are some good strategies to use when doing a listening and speaking exercise?" I hear you ask. Well, here are a few tips that may be helpful:

    • When talking in groups or pairs, make sure you are turn-taking. This allows everyone to speak and ensures there are no unnecessary interruptions.

    • Listen carefully to what others are saying and pay attention to their views. You should also consider non-verbal language, such as body language and gestures, as this conveys how someone feels. Maintain eye contact to show that you are interested in what others have to say.

    • Show that you are willing to participate in the conversation. You can do this by ensuring you are contributing to the discussion and expressing your views instead of only listening!

    • When you do speak, make sure you speak clearly so others can understand you well.

    Listening and Speaking Activities

    We recognize that high school can be stressful and challenging at times. You may want to do some activities to keep things interesting and fun!

    You need something to pass around for this activity, such as a ball.

    1. Get into a group.

    2. Pick a topic.

    3. One person starts with the ball. Only the person with the ball can speak.

    4. The person with the ball begins the conversation about the topic.

    5. Once their turn is over, they then pass the ball to another person.

    But, here's the catch...

    Each sentence should start with the final word of the previous sentence. For example, if someone said, "I think free school meals should be more accessible to all students, " the next person should begin their sentence with 'students.'

    For this activity, write the names of a person or object on different pieces of paper.

    1. Get into groups or pairs.

    2. One person takes one of the pieces of paper and holds it up to their forehead. This person is the guesser. They cannot see what is written on the paper.

    3. The other person/people give clues until the guesser figures out the answer.

    4. Take it in turns until everyone has been a guesser.

    Listening and Speaking Practice

    How can you practice your listening and speaking skills? Here are a few things you can do to practice your listening and speaking skills:

    • Have a casual conversation with someone (this could be a friend, classmate, family member, etc.)

    • Listen to a podcast (you could also take notes while listening)

    • Practice speaking in a mirror - it may seem strange to talk to yourself, but it can help prepare you for conversations with other people or presentations

    • Read aloud - this will help you to pace yourself and speak clearly

    • Listen to famous speeches to examine changes in tone, pitch, and intonation

    Listening and Speaking - Key Takeaways

    • Listening and speaking skills allow us to communicate effectively with others.
    • Good presentation skills allow you to share your knowledge with others confidently.
    • Effectively discussing a topic in groups is dependent on a good balance between spoken contribution and listening to others.
    • Addressing opposing arguments shows that you can justify your own opinion while also considering and respecting the views of others.
    • Good active listening allows you to interpret the speakers' intentions more clearly, giving you a better idea of how to respond to them.
    Frequently Asked Questions about Listening and Speaking

    What is the relationship between listening and speaking?

    Both listening and speaking are equally important in order to have an effective conversation.

    Why is listening and talking important?

    Listening and talking are important as it allows you to develop your communication skills and use your language to increase mutual understanding between people.

    How do you develop listening and speaking skills?

    You can develop listening and speaking skills through lots of practice! For example, having conversations in groups/pairs, doing presentations, listening to podcasts, reading aloud, etc. 

    What is the relationship between listening, speaking and writing for the English learner?

    Listening, speaking and writing are all equally fundamental aspects of learning English. Listening helps people develop their own vocabulary and strengthen their speaking. Speaking then helps the development of written language, as people can pick up more complex vocabulary. Generally speaking, language learners need to hear a language before they can speak it.

    What is the importance of speaking?

    Speaking allows you to verbally express your thoughts/feelings through language. You can develop your vocabulary and strengthen your opinion through spoken communication with others. 

    Test your knowledge with multiple choice flashcards

    True or false?Communication involves more than the ability to simply talk and hear other people.

    True or false?Listening and speaking skills don't prepare you for the outside world.

    Which of the following is not an example of confident body language?

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